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Karzai, McChrystal in Kandahar to sell military operation

From Nic Robertson, CNN
A U.S. soldier calls in coordinates near Kandahar as an Afghan girl watches earlier this month.
A U.S. soldier calls in coordinates near Kandahar as an Afghan girl watches earlier this month.
  • Afghan President Harmid Karzai and U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal travel to Kandahar
  • Met with 300 local leaders
  • Karzai, McChrystal believe they got go-ahead for military operation
  • Tribal leaders have mixed reviews

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, say they've secured backing from local leaders for an upcoming military operation in the province.

McChrystal took Karzai and some of his security chiefs to Kandahar, considered the heartland of Taliban country.

With McChrystal in the front row, Karzai delivered a full-court press to a group of about 300 tribal leaders Sunday, in a bid to get their support.

The group sat on carpets and cushions on the floor as they listened to Karzai passionately talk about increasing security and ending corruption.

He also had a stong message for the Taliban.

"First I call on the Taliban for peace. Do not kill your country men and children. Do not kill innocents," Karzai said. "Separate yourself from al Qaeda and the terrorists."

McChrystal and Karzai believe they got approval for the coming offensive, which has already been delayed once. About a month and a half ago, another military plan presented to locals by Karzai was rejected.

McCrystal said securing support from Afghan leaders before the start of a new offensive was critical to success. He added that this is a lesson learned from previous offensives in the country.

Tribal leaders had mixed reviews for the plan. Some doubted Karzai's government was capable of mounting such an offensive. Others expressed faith in the president, but objected to the involvement of U.S. troops.

Karzai did not say when the upcoming military operation would take place. But initial reports indicate that Afghan troops will take the main role in the center of Kandahar, while U.S. troops will be mainly on the perimeter.